South Carolina 3rd District
The Upstate in South Carolina is many days’ travel by wagon from the Lowcountry plantations along the coast. It was first settled by Scots-Irish farmers, including the family of future Vice President John C. Calhoun, around the time of the Revolutionary War. The pioneers wanted to make big plantations of these forests, but the land was too hilly for the labor-intensive rice crops grown in the Lowcountry and sometimes too cold for cotton. So relatively few slaves were brought here, and the land became mostly small farms. Today, the racial and cultural tone of the Upstate shows traces of these roots. This is a mostly white part of the South, with a hell-of-a-fella tone to daily life and a tradition-minded slice of Middle America. Yet it is not untouched by change. Aiken, with its horsey trappings for polo and steeplechase, has long attracted affluent transplants. The nearby Savannah River Site—a 310-square-mile federal weapons plant complex that for four decades produced tritium and plutonium that fueled America’s nuclear arsenal—employed generations of highly trained engineers. More than 12,000 were laid off when the plant closed in 1992, though many were hired for the clean-up of nuclear waste stored at the site. Plans are also underway for a new $5 billion plant to convert plutonium from nuclear warheads for use in commercial reactors. Today, Interstate 85—once the Main Street of America's textile belt—travels through a booming southeastern corridor that runs from Raleigh-Durham to Atlanta. Clemson University was founded here by Calhoun’s son-in-law and is one of the state’s two land-grant institutions.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 3rd Congressional District of South Carolina follows the Georgia border north from the Savannah River Site through the tree-harvesting country around McCormick County to mountains along the North Carolina border. The southern part of the 3rd has a few heavily African-American areas, like Edgefield County, where the late Sen. Strom Thurmond grew up and first won public office in the 1930s. The former segregationist retired in 2002 at age 100. Edgefield County has grown significantly as it became part of the metropolitan area around Aiken and Augusta, Ga. This part of South Carolina, ancestrally Democratic, began trending Republican in the 1950s as cultural issues became more important in this fervently religious region. The district has consistently voted Republican even when Democrats have won statewide elections. In 2008, Republican presidential candidate John McCain won 64% of the vote, his best showing in a South Carolina district.